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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Rocket Lab, Pentagon Ink Study Pact

Rocket Lab USA Inc. announced this month it had signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the United States Transportation Command.

The Long Beach-based rocket manufacturer will explore the possibility of using its Neutron and Electron rockets to transport cargo around the world. The agreement will also have Rocket Labs explore the use of its Photon spacecraft to establish on-orbit cargo depots and deliver re-entry capability, according to a release from the company.

The Electron is the only spacecraft that Rocket Labs currently has flying. It has taken 149 small satellites into Earth orbit.
Peter Beck, founder and chief executive of Rocket Labs, called Electron a proven and reliable launch vehicle.

A Rocket Lab Electron launches in New Zealand.

“We’ve demonstrated its adaptability with programs like reusability and our recent Capstone mission to the Moon for NASA, so we’re no stranger to exploring expanded use cases for Electron,” Beck said in a statement.

Capstone was launched in late June by Rocket Labs from its facility in New Zealand. Its primary objective is to test and verify the calculated orbital stability of a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the moon, the same orbit planned for NASA’s Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the moon to provide astronauts with access to the lunar surface.

The agreement with the transportation command allows the agency, part of the Pentagon, to work with Rocket Labs on exploring the use of the Electron, Neutron and Photon spacecraft capabilities, informing the Rocket Cargo program led by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Space Force, the company’s release said.

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MARK R. MADLER Author